Business Council of Australia

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Melbourne, Australia

Climate Lobbying Overview: The Business Council of Australia (BCA) appears to be improving its positioning on climate policy, nevertheless the BCA has traditionally had mixed engagement on climate-related regulations and appears to support the continuation of fossil fuels in the energy mix.

Top-line Messaging on Climate Policy The Business Council of Australia (BCA) appears to have a mixed but improving messaging in its top-line messaging on climate change policy. In January 2021, BCA stated support for Zali Steggall's independent Climate Change Bill, which legislates for a net-zero target. A position it re-emphasized in a June 2021 report titled ‘Living on Borrowed Time’, stating ‘As a country, we need to do our part in the global efforts to address climate change by adopting a national net zero target of emissions by 2050’. The BCA also supported the eventual announcement of a net-zero by 2050 target in October 2021. Previously, in 2019, BCA advocated in favour of the use of Kyoto carry over credits to reach Australia’s of 26-28% target, in effect reducing the amount of emissions reductions required even further. In 2020, BCA has nominally shifted position, endorsing a net-zero federal emission target by 2050, which is has supported in its submission to the Technology Investment Roadmap and in its submission to the COVID-19 Recovery budget. In a 2021 report titled ‘Achieving a Net Zero Economy’ the BCA stated that Australia should not use Kyoto carry-over credits as part of its Paris Agreement commitment while also calling on the Australian government to implement national policy frameworks, targets and to align with international climate policy.

Engagement with Climate-Related Regulations The BCA appears to have a mixed engagement with climate-related regulations. In 2018, the group strongly opposed proposals to increase the federal level Renewable Energy Target (RET) while in March 2019, BCA lobbied the Western Australian Government to reject the GHG emissions guidelines to be used in future development assessments released by Western Australia’s Environment Protection Authority, which were developed because of what the agency felt to be a lack of action and leadership from the federal government on emissions reductions.

The organization has, however, stated support for a carbon price in its 2020 submission to the Technology Investment Roadmap, but specifying in 2019 that this is on condition that it avoids a fixed pricing mechanism and begins at a price well below the original 2014 Carbon Tax. In its 2021 report titled ‘Achieving a Net Zero Economy’, BCA supported the extension of the remits ARENA and CEFC. As of late the BCA's position seems to be improving, in October 2021 the association pledged its support for a greenhouse gas reduction target of 46-50% by 2030, having described a 45% target as 'economy wrecking' in 2018, having previously only stated support for a GHG emission target of 26-28%. In its ‘Achieving a Net Zero Economy’ report, the association advocated for the expansion of the Safeguard Mechanism, as well as gradually reducing the baselines over time. However, it did also suggest that credits achieved through ‘crediting below-baseline’ should be allowed to be traded in a secondary market. Additionally, in November 2021 the association appeared to support Greenhouse Gas Emissions standards for road transport.

Positioning on Energy Transition: The BCA’s lobbying on the energy transition appears to be mixed, but improving. In the 2021 report titled ‘Living on Borrowed Time’, the association states that Australia should be ‘a superpower in clean energy exports such as hydrogen’ and calls for investments towards decarbonization and the development of new zero carbon technologies. However, in its 2021 report titled ‘Achieving a Net Zero Economy’, the association stated that fossil gas and fossil gas infrastructure would be needed in the transition with no mention of emissions abatement, citing apparent reliability issues with renewable energy. In 2020, with reference to its new position in favour of a “net-zero” emissions goal by 2050, BCA CEO Jennifer Westacott has clarified that the organization is supporting a heavy reliance on technologies such as CCS and carbon sequestration “to drive the transition” towards this target, which she specifies “doesn’t mean we don’t emit”, supporting only an “incremental” change in Australia’s coal-dominated energy mix with an expanded role for natural gas. In November 2021, the association supported plans to accelerate EV uptake, with Westcott stating “We support an approach that gives consumers the choice to make this switch by removing the barriers to EV uptake". The BCA has been an opponent of state-level policy action on the energy mix, particularly opposing renewable energy targets, stating support for national targets instead.